“At/on the/my right hand”
Further to my posting yesterday in which I noted the curious variation-pattern in NT usage of two Greek expressions for “at the right hand,” a few additional observations and data. In the midst of other commitments (with pressing deadlines), I can’t take the time to do the larger task of attempting to determine wider Koine preferences. So I’ll offer results of a quick survey of the Greek expressions used in the LXX, and the Hebrew expressions translated. (Apologies to those who don’t read Greek and/or Hebrew, but it’s a question about Greek usage in rendering Hebrew from the OT.)
First, Psalm 110:1 (LXX 109:1), which is central to the NT expressions. The Greek here is εκ δεξιων μου, rendering לימיני . A similar Hebrew form (לימין) used also in Psa 45:9 (LXX 44:10) and 109(LXX 108):31, rendered in each case as εκ δεξιων. (But compare Isaiah 63:12, where לימין is translated τῃ δεξιᾳ.) As well, εκ δεξιων renders other Hebrew forms: Psa 91(LXX 90):7 (מימינך); Psa 110(LXX 109):5 (על ימינך); Zech 3:1 (על ימינו). So, εκ δεξιων seems to have been seen as a perfectly fine way to position someone/something on the right of someone/something else.
Occasionally, a different Greek expression is used, but in context seems roughly equivalent: e.g., in Job 30:12 על ימין is translated επι δεξιαν, and similarly in Psa 121(LXX120):5 על־יד ימינך is rendered επι χειρᾳ δεξιαν σου.
By contrast, the LXX translators tended to use εν δεξιᾳ to render Hebrew expressions indicating something/someone in the right hand of someone else. Compare the interesting variations in Psalm 16 (LXX 15). In v. 8 (“he is at my right hand”) εκ δεξιων σου = מימיני ; in v. 11, however, “in your right hand” is εν τῃ δεξιᾳ σου = בימינך . Note also Proverbs 3:16 (“in her right hand”), where εν τῃ δεξιᾳ αυτης = בימינה ; and Isaiah 44:20 (“in my right hand”), where εν τῃ δεξιᾳ μου = בימיני . As noted earlier, a similar Greek form, τῃ δεξιᾳ, renders לימין in Isaiah 63:12, which refers to God leading Moses “with his right hand.”
In sum, it seems to me that εν δεξιᾳ expressions in the LXX tend to be used to connote someone/something held in another’s right hand, not simply to depict someone/something positioned to/on the right of someone. In the two instances that I discuss briefly in my essay for the Perth conference (mentioned in my previous posting), the use of εν δεξιᾳ is with reference to a person who has a close relationship with the other person. In 1 Chronicles 6:39 (Hebrew 6:24), Asaph stands εν δεξιᾳ to his brother, and in 1 Esdras Apame (the king’s favourite concubine) sits εν δεξιᾳ to the king (and demonstrates her place in his affections!). Contrast these with Psalm 45:9 (LXX 44:10), where the queen is pictured standing next to the king, εκ δεξιων.
So, to come back to the focus of all this, why the pattern of using εκ δεξιων consistently in quotations and direct allusions to the highly influential Psalm 110:1,but using/preferring εν δεξιᾳ in NT confessional references to Jesus as “at the right hand” of God? If the latter arose from some early and alternate Greek translation of Psalm 110:1, why was this preserved, when it didn’t accord with the wording of Psalm 110:1 as familiarly known? And why was εν δεξιᾳ continued as the preferred expression in Greek creeds for centuries?
See my essay (pre-publication form here) for my own tentative thoughts on the question. (But that TLG project is what we need now.)